SRS workers' clothes contaminated

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Two Savannah River Site workers were discovered with traces of plutonium 238 on their clothing in November, but followup monitoring concluded they received no internal exposure.

"In this case, the two people had contamination on their clothing, but not on themselves," said Will Callicott, spokesman for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the site's primary contractor. "The contamination was detected through routine monitoring while exiting the work area, so the radiation detection system worked as designed."

The incident occurred the week of Nov. 13 in the site's Solid Waste Management Facility, according to a report made public this month by the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

The operators were moving drums of radioactive waste that had been sitting in several inches of water in a concrete culvert, the report said.

Although the drums were dried after being removed, and no contamination was found on the drums or in the water in which they were sitting, both workers were later found to have contamination on their clothing, with highest concentrations on one worker's shoes.

The source of the contamination was later determined to be a leaking drum and steps were taken to clean up the area.

The workers were monitored and determined to have no exposure.

The incident was one of just two contamination events of a reportable threshold that occurred in 2009. In September, a construction foreman contaminated his personal clothing on a job in H area.

"Given the amount of work we do that involves radiological materials, that's an extremely low number," Mr. Callicott said.

Plutonium 238 is highly toxic, but its primary danger is inhalation or ingestion, which can lead to cancer.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (7) Add comment
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Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/24/09 - 09:58 am
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Plutonium is some bad stuff.

Plutonium is some bad stuff. You mean its leaking out of drums sitting in water? This is crazy.

imdstuf
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imdstuf 12/24/09 - 10:34 am
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Maybe the couple of cases

Maybe the couple of cases were just people who were sloppy with their work Riverman. I do not know much about what goes on out there so I just have to hope and trust they know what they are doing :P

corgimom
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corgimom 12/24/09 - 11:23 am
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My comment got pulled, I'll

My comment got pulled, I'll try this again. "Given the amount of work we do that involves radiological materials, that's an extremely low number," Mr. Callicott said. 3 people is 3 TOO MANY.

Purelaughs
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Purelaughs 12/24/09 - 11:57 am
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This shouldn't even be news.

This shouldn't even be news. All nuclear facilities have incidents, however its not reportable news. The papers are just looking for something to report on now. Must be slow times.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/24/09 - 01:12 pm
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Purelaughs...huh??? Plutonium

Purelaughs...huh??? Plutonium leaking out of drums stacked in a culvert into water. This is wrong on so many levels.

Pu239
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Pu239 12/24/09 - 05:10 pm
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Riverman......do you do
Unpublished

Riverman......do you do understand that these drums are in the solid waste facility and that the "culvert" you speak of is a dike designed to contain leakage? Secondly, Pu238 is an alpha emitter; it cannot penetrate even the dead layer of skin on your body. The hazards associated with this isotope are ingestion and inhalation. I agree with purelaughs, this article is just the AC trolling for comments.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/25/09 - 03:30 am
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Pu239, thanks for your

Pu239, thanks for your obviously knowledgeable input. Let me ask, were not some workers exposed to plutonium about a decade ago at SRS who died from the exposure? You are telling me it's no big deal if plutonium leaks. Alpha, beta and all that.

waver
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waver 12/25/09 - 10:12 am
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If you look at the Energy

If you look at the Energy Employees Compensation Act statistics you will find there were thousands of documentable SRS radiation exposures that resulted in cancers over the last 60 years.

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